Nevada law makes a pet owner criminally liable for keeping or giving away a "vicious" dog. A conviction carries fines or even prison if the dog caused substantial injuries. And in some cases the dog itself may even be euthanized.
This article explains the definitions of "vicious dog" versus "dangerous dog" as well as Nevada's "dog bite" rules. Keep reading to learn the law, defenses, and possible penalties in Las Vegas.
Nevada law under NRS 202.500 draws a distinction between what qualifies as a "dangerous dog" and a "vicious dog." It's not a crime to keep a "dangerous dog," but it is a crime to keep a "vicious dog."
The legal definition of a "dangerous dog" in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a dog who, without having been provoked by pain or torment, behaves menacingly on two separate occasions within 18 months of each other, to a degree that would lead a reasonable person to defend himself or herself against substantial bodily harm in Nevada, while the dog is:
- off the premises of its owner or keeper; or
- not confined in a cage, pen or vehicle.
Alternatively, law enforcement can declare a dog "dangerous" if it is used in the commission of a crime by its owner or keeper.
Remember it's not a crime in Las Vegas to keep a dog that's "dangerous." But anyone whom the dog injures may bring a civil suit for damages against the owner.
The legal definition of a "vicious dog" in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a dog that either:
- without having been provoked by pain or torment, kills or inflicts substantial bodily harm in Nevada upon a human being, OR
- was already declared a "dangerous dog" by law enforcement and continues to behave menacingly.
Once a dog's owner or keeper has actual notice that the dog is "vicious," it's a misdemeanor crime in Nevada for the owner to knowingly:
- transfer ownership of the dog, or
- keep the dog for more than seven days
And if a vicious dog attacks someone causing substantial bodily harm, the dog owner faces felony prosecution.
A dog may not be found dangerous or vicious for acting defensively against a person who committed or attempted to commit a crime or who provoked the dog with pain or torment. So for example a dog who attacks a would-be burglar or who fights back against a person taunting it is not legally "dangerous" or "vicious."
Nevada has no specific law regarding dog bites. But anyone whom the dog injures may sue the owner for physical and emotional damages within 2 years of the incident. The "victim" would need to prove in court that the owner's negligence led to the injury.
There are many possible defenses for fighting a Las Vegas vicious dog charge under NRS 202.500. Three of the more common strategies include the following:
- Self-defense in Nevada. Similar to people, dogs may injure or kill out of reasonable self-defense in Nevada. If a defense attorney can show that the dog's actions were in response to someone provoking it with physical pain or torment, then the owner should not be criminally liable for the substantial bodily harm the dog caused.
- Lack of notice. Unless a dog owner knows (or should have known) that his/her dog was vicious, then he/she committed no crime by keeping the dog or transferring the dog to someone else. So if a defense attorney can show that the dog owner was truly unaware that the dog was vicious, then vicious dog charges cannot stand.
- Lack of evidence. In all criminal cases the prosecution bears the burden to prove the defendant's guilt beyond on a reasonable doubt. If a defense attorney can show that the state's evidence is unreliable or insufficient, then the case may be dismissed for lack of proof.
It's a misdemeanor in Nevada for a person either to 1) transfer ownership of a vicious dog, or 2) own or keep a vicious dog for more than 7 days after having actual notice that the dog is indeed vicious. The punishment for a misdemeanor in Nevada is:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
But if substantial bodily harm results from an attack by a dog that the owner knows is vicious, the owner may be prosecuted for a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence for a category D felony in Nevada includes:
- 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines
Furthermore, a judge may order the vicious dog to be humanely put down.
Harboring a "dangerous dog" as opposed to a "vicious dog" is not a crime in Nevada. However a dangerous dog owner still faces civil litigation for any wrongs the dog may have inflicted. A judge may impose such penalties as:
- fines for physical injuries, emotional trauma, and property damage,
- an order to take out an insurance policy on the dog, and/or
- an order to keep the dog in an enclosure and post warning signs
The state may keep the dog in custody until these requirements are met. And if the owner does not comply with these directives in a timely fashion, the state may euthanize the dog.
Arrested for a vicious dog? Call for help . . .
If you're facing criminal prosecution for an allegedly vicious dog under NRS 202.500, call Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (333-3673). They can consult with you for free about how best to try to keep you out of jail and to keep your dog safe in your custody.